Society loves a scapegoat, and all too often it's gaming that cops the blame. The violent nature of video games comes under scrutiny in the wake of tragic shootings, while the rise in mental health issues is, at times, attributed to the increased prevalence of gaming. The concern is for an alleged generation of isolated and introverted youth, lacking in social development due to hours spent in virtual worlds.
Some argue that in many cases gaming is responsible for common mental health conditions including social anxiety and depression, born out of dissatisfaction with the real world in comparison to the virtual space. A similar phenomenon, termed "Pandoran Depression," followed the immensely popular James Cameron film Avatar in 2009, when mundane daily life fell short of how viewers perceived the idyllic fantasy world of the film.
As a means to see how gaming and mental illness correlate in reality, I spoke with four self-professed "gamers" who have also been diagnosed with mental health disorders. Despite their fears of stigma, Lucy, David, Paul, and Erin* bravely opened up to me about how gaming has impacted their struggle with mental illness, for better and for worse.